Sunday 31 May 2009

SECC Launch New Website

The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) has relaunched its website and is fixing its prices at the exchange rate from the day contracts are signed to attract buyers from North America and Europe.

The price guarantee will allow buyers to take advantage of the sterling's devaluation, which has made the venue 25% cheaper for international buyers than it was two years ago, the SECC claims.

SECC director of sales Ben Goedegebuure said: "By guaranteeing our prices at the exchange rate for the date from when a contract is signed by the organiser we are able to pass on unparalleled savings and take the risk out of currency fluctuations for our clients."

The venue's website has been enhanced and new features include an interactive floor plan and 360-degree views of the venue.

Goedegebuure said: "For an event organiser this is immensely important as they can view the space to gauge a real understanding of what the potential is and what the SECC can offer." The centre has also been awarded the Gold Standard by the Green Business Tourism Scheme.

Friday 29 May 2009

Courses Maintained by Fife Council

FIFE Council will continue to support eight local authority managed golf courses, including Dunnikier and Kinghorn and all clubs will get a share in £750,000 to improve facilities over the next five years. However, senior Council officials have not ruled out selling them in future, if this becomes a viable financial option.

A major review of Council-managed golf was carried out over the past year in a bid to address funding and maintenance issues with options including selling clubs or leasing them out.

However, councillors at Tuesday's housing and communities committee unanimously agreed to continue providing affordable, accessible, good quality golf courses.

The Council has consulted extensively with a range of individuals and groups, including the local golf clubs, season ticket holders and 'pay and play' golfers."We will maintain this dialogue as we review our golf pricing and investment policies and further consider the use of a trust to manage and operate the golf courses in the future".

Council-managed golf clubs in Fife are - Auchterderran, Dora, Dunnikier, Glenrothes, Kinghorn, Lochore Meadows and Scoonie. The Council also owns the golf courses at Leven Links and Tulliallan which are leased to the in-situ clubs and the St Andrews Links which is managed by the St Andrews Links Trust. The golf courses at Falkland and Anstruther are held under Common Good arrangements.

Full article from Fife Today

Local Events The Way Forward?

As Homecoming Scotland 2009 still creates debate in the industry about its impacts a local music festival this weekend is apparently having direct economic impacts.According the Press and Journal, Montrose in Anugus is bracing itself for an influx of thousands of music fans when it holds its second annual festival this weekend. The Montrose Music Festival will officially open tonight with a concert by Scottish band Deacon Blue and with more than 70 free gigs over the course of the weekend, the event has doubled in size since last year.

In 2008 more than 5,000 people from across the country were drawn to the town to hear artists from a variety of musical genres, including rock, indie, funk, folk and jazz. An organiser was quoted as saying, "There has been a lot of interest in the town’s hotels and bed and breakfasts, as well as in the festival’s official campsite, which is a good indicator of how popular it will be."

Whilst it may be argued that this is the very sort of event that should have benefited from the Homecoming umberella, it clearly hasn't embraced the branding. It however shouldn't distract from the point that it is these the localised events with local roots and clear localised impacts that have the best chance of longevity and buy in. They also have the potnential to achieve the sustainability that is required.

The free gigs will start on Saturday at 10.30am with a series of open-air performances on the town’s High Street, which will continue until 5.30pm.

New Upgrades to Online Booking Engine

Market-leading booking technology company Bookassist have announced a series of upgrades to the Bookassist system.
Listen to customers with Web 2.0 reviews integration for your website
  • Automatically gather reviews through the booking engine, and manage and respond to those reviews directly in the hotel administration system which allows hotels to read, activate or deactivate, publish and answer their guest comments.
  • It also allows publishing of positive guest comments on the website to increase sales.
  • Show guests who have had issues that hotels care about their custom by responding quickly and actioning change.
    Demonstrate to potential guests through your reviews and comments that you are a customer-oriented hotel

Connected Packages for Easier Management

Bookassist now allows to link the pricing in one package or room type with another so that the accommodation provider can quickly alter many rates throughout the system by operating from a smaller number of master rates.

Other upgrades to the admin side include a Manage By Year Upgrade - allowing simple but powerful mangement and assessment of your year ahead online; Bookassist has long offered the potential to upsell and promote through add-ons and the new upgrade brings the capability to add photographs to add-ons and to group them in more convenient ways to help customers identify them more easily and to add to their on-screen appeal.

Contact Bookassist on for more information on how to unlock the power of your website.

Gordon Sherry Comeback

Good to see that Gordon Sherry, the wonder kid of Ayrshire, indeed Scottish, golf in the early 1990s, is hitting the comeback trail at the age of 35.
The big man has made the cut after a second round, one-over-par 73 in the Northern Open at Spey Valley, Aviemore.
Although he was 11 shots off the pace set by Craig Lee on four-under-par 140, and said: "I need to keep working hard but at the moment I'm just glad to be back."
Sherry was four under after five holes of his second round but fell back with two bogeys and then a triple bogey at the ninth where he incurred a two-shot penalty for playing a wrong ball.

The Buchan Quine is Fine for Trump

Much publicity about the latest Donald Trump appointment in the North East. Trawling through the articles on the "Buchan Quine", The Aberdeen Evening Express covered it best and with a more detailed local angle leading with

"AN ABERDEEN museum boss has landed the key job of running Donald Trump’s £1bn Balmedie golf resort. Sarah Malone, 34, was today announced as executive vice-president of Trump International Golf Links Scotland. And she vowed to play her part in delivering a project that would “floodlight” the North-east."

The full article can be read on the Evening Express site

Wednesday 27 May 2009

New Web Servers at The Edge

We are pleased to announce that on Sunday 24rd May 2009 we successfully completed the migration of our main hosting services to a new network with brand new hardware.

We have invested in the new network with brand new Dell servers and Cisco network equipment. All servers are new state-of-the-art machines and much more powerful than any we have used before. This means your hosting services will be faster than ever and equipped to move forward for the future.

We have invested heavily in this move to provide you with the best available equipment and network connections to move forward into the future with.

WiFi - Must Do!!

I think we posted a wee article about a month back on our thinking that free WiFi provision should be a minimum standard these days. Our Google Alerts flagged up a new broadband package from WiFi Ecosse, which is being launched in a bid to substantially increase the availability of wireless Internet hotspots in Scotland.

This new package offers a simple, cost-effective turnkey solution that enables small to medium-sized venues such as hotels, bars, cafes and conference facilities to offer wireless internet access for their visitors.

With only around 300 public hotspots currently available in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and fewer than 500 across Scotland, the article states that the package taps into the growing demand for cost-effective, rapid Internet access in Scotland.

Included in the service is an ADSL connection and a broadband WiFi Access Point with a hosted platform to enable subscriber control, managing either voucher or credit-card based guest access. The wireless router is pre-configured and simply requires plugging into a venue's broadband line.
WiFi Ecosse designed the system with the express purpose of eliminating the need for extensive knowledge of the systems involved in delivering wireless hotspots, removing the usual set-up and maintenance headaches associated with the technology. The pre-configured Access Point simply allows any guests to connect to the open wireless network, where they are directed to a voucher or credit-card processing page.

A further benefit for venues buying into our WiFi initiative is that it can be provided as a chargeable service called a PublicZone, providing venues with an additional revenue stream, or on a free, but controlled Internet access basis as a value added feature, called a GuestZone.

This gives venues some flexibility over how WiFi is implemented, and as user demand continues we believe a package offering a simple set-up at a competitive price with free marketing material and user-support makes sense for small to medium sized businesses, and will significantly boost the number of hotspots in Scotland.
Orocco Pier in Edinburgh has been quick to embrace the wireless technology as owner Peter Wilson explains:
"The internet has come a long way over the last few years, and increasingly we are finding our visitors in the restaurant and bar as well as our guests using the accommodation requesting access to broadband for business and leisure purposes. Wifi Ecosse is effectively plug-and-play which has made it incredibly easy to set up and we expect demand for the service to soar over the coming months."

Tony Mercer, Head of Quality and Standards at VisitScotland said, "In an ever-more competitive and sophisticated market place, Scotland must be at the forefront in providing for, and in anticipating, our customers needs. At the same time, people here in Scotland are working increasingly hard, but spending more and more on leisure time activities. Access to thousands more Wi-Fi hotspots fits perfectly with vistors’ and Scots’ lifestyles and expectations. Bars, cafes, B&Bs, hotels, restaurants - all are integral parts of the Scottish tourism experience, and to compete we must only provide exactly what our customers want, when they want it. Now even the smallest of these businesses can provide access to the world, which can only enhance Scotland’s reputation as a must-visit destination.”
Further details of the new package can be found at

Sherbrooke Castle Hotel using Bookassist

Sherbrooke Castle Hotel in the south side of Glasgow is the latest property to select Bookassist's booking engine to drive their online reservations.

Sherbrooke Castle Hotel is a magnificent 4 star baronial hotel crafted in rich red sandstone and set in beautifully landscaped gardens in the leafy suburb of Pollokshields in Glasgow's southside and it's website now offers many of the new functions in the latest release of Bookassist booking engine.

As well as multiple language and currency options, the hotel can now manage and publish its own guest reviews, utilise the new Linked Packages rate management for easy dyanamic pricing and even add photographs to their add ons.

The system was embedded easily into the Hotel's own website with no changes required to navigation and is now prominently featured sitewide to maximise conversion rates.

Find out how you can benefit from the industry leading functions of Bookassist by following the link or view how the booking engine integrates into Glasgow's Sherbrooke Castle Hotel.

Dublin Golf Pass Launched

We note that DUBLIN TOURISM have announced the arrival of The Dublin Golf Pass, "designed to make the county's varied venues more accessible." Visitors can play three rounds of golf on some of the most challenging courses in the country at special rates. Programme One offers golf in the backdrop of the Dublin mountains at South County, Slade Valley and Citywest Lakes courses for €99. Programme Two offers offers Luttrellstown Castle, the links at St Anne's and Castleknock for €160 and Programme Three is centred in the north of the county taking in St Margaret's, Portmarnock Hotel Golf Links and Roganstown at a cost of €195.
The Dublin Golf Pass can be booked online at golfpass or at any of Dublin Tourism's four Tourist Information Offices: Suffolk Street, O'Connell Street, Dublin Airport and Dun Laoghaire Ferry Terminal.
The pass emphasises the need for collaborative marketing not only during a recession. First in Fife Golf is an excellent example of golf clubs getting together to actually create a product from a disparate collection of clubs in the west Fife area. The results have been quite astonishing over the past four years and the recently updated First in Fife website now features online rooms, tee times and a host of Web 2.0 tools.
In a similar vein but perhaps at the other end of the market place is Scotland's West Coast Golf Links - ten of Scotland's finest links courses marketing together for the first time ever. The group commissioned a new Ayrshire Golf website, 24 page colour brochure and a series of supporting materials for hotels and tourism operators in Ayrshire.

How is Homecoming For You?

Not sure whether I sensed a change of tone as we move into June. The following quote was taken from a Herald report on an event in Linlithgow last weekend and ended with what very much appears to be a cut and paste job from an offical press release. (Overly cynical?) Does it seem to be the first indication that the hype is over and that now the other side of the slope will focus on how the recession and global events impacted on the plans for the tourism revival that Homecoming was feted to bring? In reality what has been the impact at a local, regional and national level.

Strikingly clear is that the rest of the UK has not been left behind in marketing their history and heritage this year. A cursory viewing of any major sports event on TV over the weekend would have brought you adverts for Yorkshire, the north east of England and a host VisitUs.coms - no promotion of Scotland to the key UK markets at any of these events.

So are the sceptics right? Was Homecoming Scotland a cynical political move? The key concern must however be that there appears to be no post Homecoming plan. What is the strategy for 2010 - where is Homecoming taking us? Anyway, here's the last three or four paragraphs from the Herald:-
"Homecoming Scotland 2009, a year-long programme built on the Burns anniversary, has been billed as celebrating Scotland's contributions to the world. Key themes are golf, whisky, great minds and innovations, culture and heritage, and it is expected to generate an extra £40m in tourism income.

However, the recession has severely hit the number of visitors coming to the UK as well as the amount of Brits heading abroad in the past year. Over the 12 months to March 2009, the number of visits by overseas residents fell by 2.2 million, a fall of 7%, to 31million.

The Scottish Government, which is behind the event, said although economic conditions are tough, the Year of Homecoming is proving Scotland is a unique selling point to attract visitors from across the world. The Scottish Government spokesman said: "A year of celebration based on ancestral links is particularly appealing to some of our long-haul markets, such as in North America and Australia. The Homecoming Scotland programme is being promoted by extensive marketing and PR campaigns delivered in close partnership with VisitScotland and EventScotland in order to maximise the impact of the project and leverage existing work and relationships.

"That activity is focused on delivering our targets across the extensive range of events taking place across the year. Target in terms of visitor numbers is 100,000 additional international visitors. We expect to exceed this target."

Hoteliers discuss importance of online marketing effectiveness

A recent series of summits found that measuring the effectiveness of online marketing activities was the number one concern expressed by hoteliers.

More than 250 of SynXis’ customers attended five global revenue and distribution summits around the world to share ideas and best practices for staying competitive in a difficult economic environment.

Topics included revenue management, pricing strategy, GDS marketing and Internet marketing, including strategies for leveraging social media as a distribution channel. with some notable trends emerging:

  • Where there once was a clear delineation between revenue management and marketing responsibilities, it appears a convergence is taking place with two-thirds of the attendees responding that they oversee and/or influence both revenue management and marketing activities.
  • In every region, one of the top three biggest areas of concern was measuring the effectiveness of online marketing activities; yet less than a quarter of the attendees use web analytics or reporting as an integral part of their daily business.

Other top areas of concern for the attendees included: competitive actions, business mix and shorter booking windows. These concerns were consistent throughout all regions whilst more than half of the attendees had experimented with social media for their hotels as they search in this environment for a form of differentiation, increased customer loyalty, and incremental bookings.

“The traditional marketing role has evolved and is today, more fiscally accountable than ever before,” said Bruce Hyatt, of SynXis. “Marketing initiatives need to return a good level of investment and there is a lot of pressure to find new ways and new technology to make and save money for the company. An integrated marketing and distribution strategy is paramount in achieving this success”

James Kennedy of Bookassist Scotland couldn't disagree with any of the findings, "Managing Revenue and marketing online now go hand in hand and measurement of online marketing activity such as web traffic, blogs, Twitter and Pay Per Click camapigns are critical in ensuring good growth in online reservations. At Bookassist we recognise that improving understanding of the correlation between revenue management and online marketing is critical and in Scotland our new Relationship Builder programme has been built to encourage the very differentiation, customer loyalty and incremental bookings that the hoteliers discussed."

You can get more information on the Bookassist booking engine for accommodation providers at or contact

87% of reservations made online...

Interesting release about the performance of Travelodge last year.

  • 87% of reservations are booked online -
  • Delivered significant revenue growth of 19 percent in 2008,
  • Revenues increased to £289.7m
  • Rooms sold increased by nine percent to six million and occupancy levels were at 74 percent across the board.
  • Opened a record 39 hotels (3,844 rooms) in the UK in 2008 with plans to open 25 hotels (2,500 rooms) in 2009.

Grant Hearn, CEO, Travelodge said 2008 was another record year of growth for the Travelodge brand with over 15 percent of new supply added to its estate.

“In a more worrying financial period for consumers, the forecasted structural change of the industry has accelerated with business and leisure customers switching from mid scale and upmarket hotels to the budget sector,” said Hearn.

“In 2009 we have strengthened our marketing campaigns by offering a `price check’ programme and a business account card for corporate customers. Both of these programmes have established Travelodge as the best value budget hotel brand and have ensured that we continue to outperform the market. Whilst trade remains challenging, we are beginning to see an improvement in trading performance which we would expect to continue throughout the summer holiday period,” added Hearn.

What can independant operator learn from the above? James Kennedy Business Development Manager for Bookassist Scotland took up the theme, "For me the striking fact is that 87% of all reservations are made online. This combined with dynamic pricing and progressive online marketing is ensuring that their brand is at the forefront. Independents and even small groups need to ensure not only that their own booking engine is up to the job but that their online presence, both through their website and complementary marketing, is giving the right message. Accommodation providers in harder times must ensure that they are marketing properly online and using the technology that's available."

Bookassist have just launched a series of new upgrades to their own online booking system including Linked Packages (which allows for easy to manage dynamic pricing) and Customer Review management (with accommdaotion providers having acess to publish their own guest reviews and comments.)

More information is available from Bookassist Scotland on 02192 521404 or visit Bookassist

Friday 22 May 2009

Nickalus Returns to Turnberry

According to The Ayr Advertiser, luckyyoung golfers enjoyed the experience of a lifetime when they had a coaching clinic with Jack Nicklaus.

The golfing legend was at the Colin Montgomerie Academy at Turnberry. The Royal Bank of Scotland event saw 30 youngsters from the Maybole and Prestwick areas being given some tips from The Golden Bear. All the young golfers have been involved in the Clubgolf initiative in South Ayrshire.

During the coaching sessions, Nicklaus learned of a new golf exhibition tracing the development and history of golf in South Ayrshire, opening at Rozelle House on June 1.

Called Whole in One, the exhibition boasts a range of rare and valuable artefacts, including a replica of the famous Open Championship Claret jug and the original Open Championship belt dating from the last century.

Running until August 31, the exhibition is free and is open to the public.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Tennant Cup at Glasgow Gailes

The Tennant Cup will take place on Saturday 20 June and Sunday 21 June 2009. This is the oldest Open Amateur Stroke Competition in the world.

The Competition will be played over 72 holes of stroke play, with the first 36 holes being played over Glasgow Golf Club’s links course at Glasgow Gailes on the Saturday, and the leading 40 players and those who have tied for fortieth place playing the final 36 holes over Glasgow Golf Club’s parkland course at Killermont in Glasgow on the Sunday.

The Tennant Cup Competition is open to Amateur Golfers who have handicaps of not more than 1. The winner will have his name inscribed upon the Cup, and will receive a suitably engraved silver medal plus a First Prize voucher of £500.

Entry Forms can be downloaded from the website under Open Competitions.

New Channel Manager for Tourism Database

The Claymore Project, Scotland's most highly integrated hospitality content management system has introduced a number of new functions in it's latest upgrade release.

With the increasing use of The Claymore Project database by destination management organisations, product groups, marketing organisations and membership bodies, it had become increasingly clear that new tools were required for group site administrators to manage whose content was appearing on their site.

The resultant research has lead the project developers, The Edge, to create a new Channel Manager function within The Claymore Project database which will add the following functions into the website.

The Channel Manager will allow the group site administrator:

  • The ability to add new members to The Claymore Project Database
  • The ability to add and remove members to the list of featured users on their website
  • The ability to define expiry dates for members’ information
  • The ability to request password information

Full information on this latest upgrade is available on The Claymore Project website

Gretna Hotel Launches New Website

The Gables Hotel in Gretna has gone live with their new website this week.

The property in the famous town is a beautiful turn of the century Grade 11 listed property, situated in the heart of Gretna with gardens laid to lawn, floral borders and shady trees. It is ideally located to explore Dumfries and Galloway with its forests and lochs, or historic Carlisle and the northern lakes with designer shopping at the Gretna Gateway being five minutes away.

The site has been designed by Ayrshire based web developers The Edge and uses the state of the art hospitality content management system The Claymore Project to give the hotel complete control of content, images and indeed their search engine tags.

The Edge have been doing considerable online work in recent months for the hotel's sister company Darkstar featuring a group website, individual sites for each of the inns and pubs and the integration of Bookassist online booking engine for the accommodation providers.

Thursday 14 May 2009

3D Golf Merge with English Company

TYNESIDE’S Inta Group, which runs the Bill Goff golfing holiday brand, has joined forces with a Scottish company to look together for further growth across Europe.

The Newcastle firm’s merger with Ayr company 3D Golf has created a leisure business focused on golf and with a turnover of about £25m.

Chairman Paul Challen says the joint venture will concentrate on developing their respective strengths, with the North East company particularly strong in Portugal, where it employs 25 full-time staff, and 3D strong in France and Spain.

Mr Challen has built the Inta Group into a £12m turnover company after buying Bill Goff Golf Tours from its founder, the former fruit and veg seller and hotelier Bill Goff 15 years ago.
Back then it took 200 golfers abroad a year. Inta Group now takes 28,000 and takes annual bookings for 30,000 tee-times.

As well as Bill Goff, Inta Group has developed the no-frills internet golf holiday business and the golf course booking business

The merger idea came at a recent golfing trade show where Mr Challen approached John Derwent, the son of 3D Golf founder Frank Derwent about a possible deal. Mr Challen said: “Our businesses are about the same size and it just seemed the right time for us to come together. We are very strong in Portugal and 3D have a strong presence in France and Spain.

“The merger allows us to further develop these core markets without competing against each other while giving us the opportunity to increase our joint profile in other European markets.”

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Six Wolsey Lodges to Promote Southern Scotland

Another press release this afternoon highlights a succesful bid for support funding from a collection of Wolsey Lodges in the South of Scotland:

A new tourism project aimed at bringing more holiday money to the South of Scotland has won funding from Visit Scotland. "We're going to show people what they are missing," said Susan Crosthwaite (chairman of the group), and "We want to attract tourists who usually pass us by."

Six 4 and 5 star Wolsey Lodges have formed a group to create a collaborative tourism/business association aiming to position and market the South of Scotland as a quality destination in its own right. There is a fantastic response from associate members (paying a £50 membership fee) from the National Trust for Scotland, the Race Courses, Royal Botanic Gardens, Drumlanrig and Dumfries House to small individual businesses in the Borders and Ayrshire Food Networks.

From large 4 and 5 star hotels such as the McMillan Group and The Luxury Collection at Turnberry to small 4 and 5 star B&Bs such as Clint Lodge St. Boswells and Alt-na-Craig East Ayrshire.

This will be a sustainable tourism marketing group with the view of continual marketing of the area in years to follow. It will develop a Southern Scotland brand and position the area as a Quality and Luxury destination Visit Scotland is providing Growth Match Funding to enable this group to promote Southern Scotland as an end destination not just a destination to pass through or visit for one night.

As part of this project the group is creating a tourism membership for Southern Scotland which will be made up of quality tourism businesses in the area. The Southern Scotland brand and association will encourage cross-selling, collaboration and an aligned tourism focus
for the area.

The Initiative is being supported by the East, North and South Ayrshire Councils and South
Lanarkshire Council and will promote the area as both a short stay and long stay tourist destination with a wealth of quality accommodation, activities, businesses that can cater for the more affluent visitor all year round - keeping visitors in the South of Scotland.

The group will promote a range of itineraries and bespoke visitor packages to entice visitors and to encourage additional bed nights and spend in the area. This tourism marketing project is called "Southern Scotland Live It Love It" highlighting the luxury focus of the campaign and the magnificence of theunique destination. They are developing a brand associated with luxury
through all of our marketing activity.

A key element of our marketing will be the online activity. A major element of this is our website will be the customer contact point and other activity will feed into this site and direct visitors to the online facility where ever possible.

The group will promote the ‘quality’ range of businesses within the Southern Scotland brand. For example the Wolsley Lodges and other quality assured accommodation providers are complemented by a growing number and range of activities that visitors can do when here including golf, walking, cycling, food, whisky, history, culture.

The Southern Scotland, Live it, Love it project has received £12,500 funding from the VisitScotland Growth Fund. The VisitScotland Growth Fund is a £1 million fund available for well researched, new, collaborative marketing projects from groups of tourism businesses that have a strong customer focus and that operate at local, regional or national level. Funding from the VisitScotland Growth Fund is assisting in the establishment of the brand, it’s on-line presence and innovative digital promotional activities.

Wolsey Lodges is a collection of private homes, where the standard of hospitality, the location and the individuality of each house and host, has earned its unique place within the market today. The name Wolsey Lodge recalls Henry VIII's Lord Chancellor, Cardinal Wolsey.

When he toured the realm in the 16th century, he expected to receive generous hospitality at any suitable country house along his way. This is the service and quality our lodges will want to offer you, wherever you travel.

Wolsey Lodges vary from very grand country houses, Elizabethan manor houses, Georgian mansions, Victorian country rectories, to lovingly restored cottages. Each have their individual attributes and features, whether it is the history, the location, the surroundings or the food.

Most importantly, all Wolsey Lodge hosts invite you into their homes because they want to share them with you. They are all dedicated to making your stay as enjoyable as possible.

Online Booking Fails Consumers

A thought provoking report came into our inbox this morning - American research granted but has much resonance with our sector in Scotland too.

The key points jumped out at me as I read them.

  1. According to a recent study conducted by Merrill Lynch, online bookings as a share of total reservations increased from 30% in 2006 to 40% in 2008. The same study projects that 45% of hotel bookings will be made online by the year 2010.
  2. Booking is the leading preoccupation of hotel website visitors. In this way, hospitality websites face a basket of challenges not dissimilar to mainline e-commerce sites: optimising the transactional experience for visitors who are onsite to book and ensuring that researchers and rate shoppers are efficiently shepherded down the booking funnel.
  3. Industry analysts expect a measurable slowdown in travel this year, as both business and leisure consumers forego travel plans to save money.
  4. Looking ahead, those who do travel will no doubt change their booking habits – specifically, they will wait until the last minute to book in order to obtain the best prices, combing through the online brokerage sites to shave valuable dollars off room rates. Cost sensitivity is already having a negative impact on hospitality website satisfaction scores. The two weakest attributes in the sector pertained directly to price and perceived sense of value.
  5. Only 51% of bookers were capable of completing their tasks. While some of the reasons underpinning this low rate might have been outside the purview of the web experience, significant numbers of bookers reported problems with site navigation, the booking flow, and insufficient hotel/room information, all of which fall squarely on the plate of interactive marketers and website developers.

The report goes on to say that to counteract this, hotel websites will need to focus on better engaging and persuading visitors at incipient stages of the booking cycle.

The research indicated that 50% of website visitors were onsite for the first time and thus not acclimatised to the site navigation, architecture, and functionality. Hotel websites struggled to effectively cater to this segment reflected in lower conversion rates.

To boost their efficiency in a troubled economic climate, hotel websites will need to focus on delivering simpler, more intuitive site navigation, a streamlined booking process, and more robust content, supplemented with better pictures and more lifelike virtual tours.

Ian McCaig from Bookassist Scotland who provide the booking engine to an increasing number of accommodation providers across Scotland was not surprised at the findings, "A website requires three key elements; it must not only reflect the accommodation providers product graphically, it must also be able to be found by the potential traveller but most importantly it must be readily bookable. The booking engine must be easy to understand and navigate through at all stages - and this really must include language and currency options aimed at the increasing numbers of overseas markets visiting the UK.

Bookassist has recognised that conversion rates can only be maintained by making the Booking process user friendly. Creating unnecessary barriers such as frames linking out to other websites, or offering competitive product or no room descriptions only leads to the customer hitting the X button and closing down the process."

Ian McCaig continued, "The percentages however should be sobering to the accommodation provider and really should ensure that they look critically at the booking process on their own website;

  • more than 1/3rd of the site visitors were on the site to book

  • more than 50% failed to do so

In raw numbers? For every thousand site visitors to a website as many as 175 wanted to book but gave up! Hoteliers have to ensure that the booking process they offer is built around the convenience of the site visitor and not simply because the process comes with a PMS system or as an add on to third party distribution products. When deciding on how their bookings are offered the hotelier must make this the first box to be ticked; all else comes after."

You can get more information on Bookassist Booking Engine by clicking the link

Read the full iPerceptions Report here

Monday 4 May 2009

Ayrshire golf is Open for business

West Coast Links Golf courses launch marketing initiative at tourism expo.

Ten of Scotland’s finest links golf courses today launched a new marketing initiative aimed at attracting more golfers from around the world to the Ayrshire Coast.

The group which embraces three Open Championship courses, including this year’s venue Turnberry, was launched officially by Jim Mather, the Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism who unveiled both the printed materials and the new website

Mr. Mather is pictured at VisitScotland’s showcase tourism industry event in Glasgow with the famous Claret Jug and the replica of the original Open Championship Belt first played for in 1860 at Prestwick. He said, “This is a great example of the golf industry working together in the current difficult economic times to attract visitors from across the world to our great country. Golf is a key theme of our Homecoming celebrations this year and the Open golf championship at Turnberry in July will bring thousands of golf fans to Scotland.

“Our Drive it Home initiative alone, which seeks to attract international golfers to Scotland for free rounds of golf at hundreds of courses across the country, has the potential to attract more than 8,000 golfers to Scotland, creating an additional £14.3 million in income for the Scottish economy. The Drive It Home campaign has already seen 3,200 potential tee times snapped up with golfers from across the world registering for a four-ball every five minutes.”

The golf course group have come together to promote the strength in depth of courses on the stretch of Ayrshire coastline between Irvine and Turnberry.

Ian Bunch, secretary of Prestwick Golf Club was delighted to see the group being launched, “The level of co-operation between the courses since the idea was first discussed has been excellent and simply by working together we are certain that we can improve the golf product on offer and the profile of Ayrshire as a golfing destination par excellence. It is already well known for hosting The Open at both Turnberry and Troon but by bringing together ten links courses of almost unmatchable quality in depth we hope to increase not only rounds played but see a clear increase in bed nights and secondary spends.”

To achieve this, the group has created a marketing plan that involves not only the courses but the accommodation and transport providers and food and drink providers across the area.
Hotelier Stuart Watt from Troon’s South Beach Hotel was equally delighted with the initiative, “The area needs this really badly and it’s such a positive move in an Open Championship year. Ayrshire needs to promote its quality golf offering and this collection of courses allows us as a hotel to really lift the golf product we offer quite dramatically.”

Whilst the group is focusing on marketing the quantity and quality of golf on offer within the 22 mile radius it is also looking forward to developing new collaborative product and using the internet to create a strong relationship with both the golf visitor and the travel trade. The message is not just being left to sit passively on its website, but is being supplemented by a host of add ons, with the group already having launched its own blog, newsfeeds and dynamic content.

Representatives of Scotland’s West Coast Golf Links were pictured not only with the Championship Trophy but also a replica of the original Belt which was first played for at Prestwick in 1860. 2010 sees the 150th anniversary of the first Open Championship played over the Ayrshire links and it is expected that the anniversary will act as the catalyst for a pilgrimage to the links golf courses of the West Coast of Scotland.